I pedal hard and catch up to Cassie.
“Hey Cassie, how did you first hear about all of this? Did you see it on tv?”
“Yeah, I saw it on tv,” she says, but her eyes slide away from mine. Something odd about that.
“Saw it on CNN. India.”
“Yeah,” Cassie says. “And then all the others.”
“And then America.”
“I don’t want to talk about this okay? Let’s talk about something else.”
“Something else…” I say, trying to think about a topic. Normally I’d ask her about her family, but then I’d have to talk about mine, and the painful hole in my chest isn’t up for that yet.
“What do you like to do for fun?” I ask.
“Play video games silly,” she rolls her eyes at me.
“Anything else? Do you like to play pretend? Maybe be a princess?”
She smiles at me. “Yeah, but not a princess. I like to be a doctor, or a scientist, or a geneticist.”
“Really?” I smile. Cassie’s blonde hair glints in the sun and her eyes sparkle. I can imagine her getting dressed up in a white coat and performing all sorts of experiments. “Ever blow up your house?”
“No,” she giggles. “My Dad won’t let me have the real stuff yet. I just get to play with safe stuff and some colored liquids.”
“Is your dad a scientist then?”
The smile slips from her face. “No, he’s more of a doctor. My mom’s a marine biologist.”
“Wow, that’s pretty cool.”
“Yeah, this summer my dad was going to get me started on biology.”
“Aren’t you kind of young for that?”
She makes a noise. “Hey, I can keep up with you.”
“I don’t doubt that,” I glance at without moving my head, discreetly. It’s kind of hard to tell, because we’d been shopping recently, but I have a suspicion.
“You went to private school, didn’t you?” I ask.
“Naw, I’m home schooled. I have a tutor come in during the week.”
Crap, just as I thought, she was friggin’ rich and home schooled to boot. What would she think of a kid like me? We’d been kind of middle class before Dad left, but then afterwards money had been really tight. I grip my handlebars a bit tighter.
“My mom had me go to soccer for a while, but I sucked at that so then I went to ballet. I like ballet, and I made a few friends. Mom said that when I first meet people I should just go right up to them, extend my hand, and say ‘Hey, I’m Cassie. What’s your name?’”
In my school she would have gotten beaten up for something like that. We’d never had the money for dance classes, or sports for that matter. Not that I was good at sports. Unless you count running, but I just think it’s fun.
“That’s cool,” I say.
“How about you? What do you do for fun?”
“Reading, watching movies, hanging out with friends. Boys,” I say with a smile.
“Boys!” she grins at me. “What books do you read?”
“Horror, sci fi, some fantasy, some adult mainstream. I really like Laurell K. Hamilton, but my Mom only let me read a few of those – something about them being too adult, whatever that means,” I roll my eyes. “I really like this series by Rachel Vincent. She writes these ones about werecats, and there’s this great love story between the main character and her on again off again boyfriend, Marc. They’re deeply in love but she doesn’t want to get married.”
“She wants to stay free and young for a while. Dude, would you want to get married in your early twenties? No way, that’s fun time!”
“Yeah, I see what you mean.”
Our talk tapers off and we ride in silence. I feel better, having just talked with Cassie a bit. She’s a cool kid. It’s a beautiful day, with sun shining through the trees, and the trees shading the road just enough that I’m not hot. It’s so nice just to see nature, and not see dead bodies everywhere. We’re in the nicer areas now, the rich areas, so I guess not a lot of people wandered out here. Hopefully zombie central is behind us.
I stand up and pump the pedals for a bit, then sit down and coast, turning the bike in wide arcs. Cassie pedals beside me, one hand on a handle bar and one hand on her knee. She looks relaxed.
Together, we follow a curve in the road, and after the turn the land on the right clears of trees and has a large green swath of grass. As we get closer, I see a large fenced area, full of something moving.
“What is that?” Cassie asks.
“I don’t know,” I shake my head and stand up again, hoping to see better. Unfortunately I do see more. I sit back down and slow my pedaling, feeling the handlebars already getting a bit slippery from my hands.
I’m close enough now that I can see it easily, so I just stop my bike, put both feet on the ground to stabilize myself, and point. Cassie stops too and looks in the direction I’m pointing at.
The fenced in area is huge, probably the size of half a football field (hey, I’m not good at measuring distances, okay?). The fence is silver chain link, but with smaller links that I’m used to seeing, and it has that barbed curvy wire at the top. Inside the fence are about twenty to thirty zombies.
“Who would cage zombies?” Cassie asks.